“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” -Martin Scorsese
Adored and revered by everyone in the cinema industry and beyond, Martin “Marty” Scorsese is a bushy-eyed veteran director whose phenomenal filmmaking skills and exceptional and audacious vision has elevated him to the level of a pioneering auteur, one who commands and deserves the respect he is being shown. While his smiling face and kind features might present him as the most harmless and adorable person in the room, his sharp critique of films and innate eye for detail is worth our admiration. His explosive content in films has often been deeply personal and is studied with enthusiasm and pleasure, globally, by cinephiles and film-buffs.
Most of Scorsese’s content contains glimpses of his life in Little Italy and his experiences while growing up downtown amidst the growing conflicts among the gangs. He was infatuated with films from a very young age and embarked on an arduous odyssey of being a filmmaker, which proved to be rewarding in the end as he ended up becoming one of the most revered auteurs of all time. Battling heavyweight opponents and other industry sharks, Scorsese managed to forge his way into the heart of cinema and cemented his legacy, inspiring countless students and filmmakers to follow suit.
Despite his penchant for a gangster film, Scorsese cannot be pigeonholed into one particular genre defyinh labels and continuously sauntering from one genre to the other. Not only has he produced brilliant masterpieces in the violent noir genre but also delved deeper into the realm of studying the human psyche, exploring the line between divinity, spirituality and humanity, as well as depicting aristocratic love triangles. He is very consistent in maintaining work collaborations with quite a few actors, namely Rober DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Franck Vincent and more.
He once said, “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” Scorsese, a student of film history and an ardent lover of the most intimate yet gruelling stories, is a realist. He has been immensely influenced by the likes of Michael Powell and Howard Hawkes and often pays homage to old Hollywood via his films, but not in the way Tarantino does. At times, he incorporates the manic energy fuelled by rock ‘n roll as well as cocaine in the ‘70s. His characters are layered, vicious and smart. He has a love for maintaining the hierarchies and power dynamics in his films. Brilliant cinematography is often followed by compelling dialogues which make each of his films a unique and isolated experience.
Known for his unique camera techniques, especially long takes, flawed characters and scathing, realistic commentary on the world we reside in, Scorsese has influenced a wide variety of directors who have derived inspiration from his unique style. This legendary auteur is set to direct his 26th feature film named Killers of the Flower Moon with his favourite duo Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio; however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the shooting has been delayed. It will supposedly be related to the Oklahoma murders in the 1920s related to some ties with the oil deposits and the FBI investigation that goes on to uncover the truth. While fans are eagerly and anxiously waiting for the film’s release, let us look at the 10 best films streaming on Netflix that shall be a perfect visual treat to the Scorsese fans.
Let’s get started.
10 films on Netflix that all Martin Scorsese fans will love
10. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson 1997)
Being a period piece, the film revolves around Eddie Adams, whose entry into the porn industry greets him with success and a carefree lifestyle. Soon, he is introduced to the world of drugs, leading to his downward spiral as he grows increasingly obsessed with it. The film also focuses on other people grappling to secure a place in the industry and is a constant commentary on the rivetingly humorous world of porn.
The film exposes the secrets of being a pornstar and the kind of life led by them, much like a Goodfellas set in the adult entertainment industry. With incredible visuals, surreal long takes and great dialogue complemented by wonderful performances by Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds and the rest of the cast make Boogie Nights a disturbingly funny and engrossing film of the acclaimed auteur.
“Heaven sent you here to this place, Dirk Diggler. You’ve been blessed.”
9. Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)
Joseph Pistone is an FBI agent who adopts the alias name of Donnie Brasco to infiltrate the tightly-knit and deadly Bonanno family. He quickly incurs the favour and trust of Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, who is an ageing gangster. Soon enough, the mafioso and the agent become close friends. However, Brasco finds himself torn between his commitment towards his job as an undercover agent and his loyalty towards his friend, whom he does not want to betray as it would eventually lead to the mafioso’s untimely death with a heart-wrenching ending.
A nuanced, well-crafted and subtle portrayal of the friendships that emerge from organised crime is upended by betrayal and the unmissable call of duty. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp have wonderful chemistry in this aching film as the veteran gangster and the undercover agent, respectively. The film not only boasts of a good storyline, undeniably tugging at one’s heartstrings, but also sees Pacino making a wonderful and subtle exit as a man who knows of his impending fate, which adds beauty, grace and poise to the film.
“If Donnie called, tell him… tell him that if it was going to be anyone, I’m glad it was him.”
8. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)
This neo-noir crime film sees three crooks, namely Squirrel, Russell and Frankie, robbing the dealy Markie Trattman’s poker game. Enraged, Trattman enlists the specialised help of assassins Mickey and Jackie to investigate the robbery and seek revenge. The director infuses a quintessential Scorsese plotline with the violence, adrenaline rush and dialogic waltz seen only in Quentin Tarantino’s films.
Raging cynicism in the film provides a scathing commentary on the world it exists in. with the 2008 United States economic recession serving as its backdrop, the phenomenal performances in the film, especially Brad Pitt in his slicked black hair, vicious dialogues and phenomenal performance, adds a hint of pessimism and doom to the film’s atmosphere. The over-arching violence in the film is a commentary on the gratuitous bloodshed in the world of organised crime. Pitt’s closing statement is a direct reference to Barrack Obama’s Presidential speech, and the eerie truth value of the statement is sure to make everyone shudder.
“This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community? Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America is not a country; it’s just a business. Now fucking pay me.”
7. Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
The film is based on a notorious check fraudster called Frank Abagnale, who charms people and is efficacious in duping millions. He is a trickster, slick and deceitful. He is pursued relentlessly by the FBI agent Carl Hanratty who is hellbent upon catching the con artist and ringing justice. However, Frank is smart and fast, and it might take some time for Carl to figure out what this impish devil is up to.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are a match made in heaven. Their brilliant collaborations have always enthralled the audience. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can is more like a Scorsese film that has been directed by Spielberg, with riveting humour, witty dialogues and a thrilling and well-crafted cat and mouse chase. This was Spielberg’s twenty-year dream project, and he finally got his favourites, tom Hanks and DiCaprio, to collaborate with a palpably great on-screen chemistry. DiCaprio, in particular, deserves extra praise for his wonderful cheeky performance as the fraudster.
“An honest man has nothing to fear, so I’m trying my best not to be afraid.”
6. Changeling (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
Set in 1928 and based on real-life events related to the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, this film revolves around the various struggles of a mother named Christine Collins who lives with her nine-year-old son Walter in Los Angeles. They leave a pretty happy and subdued life till she comes home one day to find her son missing. When she reports to the authorities, she is shunned and betrayed on the grounds of incompetency, delusion and soon gets committed to a psych ward. The police try to disguise the underlying corruption by resorting to various vicious and unfair methods.
The film is a direct commentary on the inability of the police to adhere to their duty due to corruption and bigotry. It juxtaposes a mother’s honest and undying pain when trying to find her missing son with the cold-hearted brutality of the police. Angelina Jolie was visibly distressed after portraying the role of Christine. A compelling film from Eastwood sees the audience attention being drawn upon certain important themes of political corruption, social bigotry, woman disempowerment, violence inflicted on children as well as the brutal trivialisation of one’s mental health. The atmosphere is serious and heart-wrenching; the claustrophobic nature mirrors Scorsese’s work. The suspense is good enough to keep the audience thinking about it long after the credits have stopped rolling.
“I used to tell Walter ‘Never start a fight, but always finish it.’ I didn’t start this fight, but by God, I’m gonna finish it.”
5. Scarface (Brian DePalma, 1983)
Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee, receives a green card and his buddies Manny, Angel, Chi-Chi and Ray from a Miami drug kingpin Frank Lopez after they murder a former Cuban general, heeding Lopez’s orders. Tony starts descending into the dangerous world of the Miami drug trade and turns brutal and merciless in the process, killing anybody who stands in his way as an obstacle. Gradually, he becomes a revered druglord who controls all cocaine operations. However, he constantly spirals and indulges in more intense drug-fuelled escapades while dealing with the hostile Colombian drug cartels, as well as the pressure from the police, which threaten to ruin his empire.
One of the actors, Steven Bauer, recalled how, during the screening, Martin Scorsese had complimented the film saying that it was “great” but would probably be criticised relentlessly by Hollywood. He asked them to “be prepared because they’re going to hate it in Hollywood… because it’s about them”. With one of Scorsese’s favourite actors, Al Pacino revelling in the grandiose of his character Tony Montana, the film has an air of raging cynicism that constantly questions morality and grandeur. Brian DePalma uses Pacino as his ace card to push the limits of a quintessential gangster film to produce a masterfully crafted experience that shall make viewers shudder in shock.
“The only thing I got in this world is my balls, and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for nobody.”
4. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
Ryan Gosling is an unnamed Driver in the film who is bored of his job. He is a stuntman who plays getaway drivers in films. He soon grows extremely fond of his neighbour Irene and her son Benicio. When Irene’s husband is released from prison, the Driver befriends him, and they plot a dangerous, million-dollar heist together, which puts all their close ones’ lives at stake. When the heist goes south, the Driver must endanger his own life to protect his beloved Benicio and Irene from the brutal and vengeful scheming revenge-seekers who will stop at nothing to exact justice.
If you are a die-hard Taxi Driver fan and have been hooked on Scorsese ever since — then Drive is just the film for you. Refn is an exploitation-film maniac, and although the intense and gruesome violence in his film was negatively perceived, the film was brilliant. Ryan Gosling is emotionless and stoic and does not fret nervously when faced with nerve-wracking tasks. His boredom and general indifference towards the mundane world mirrors Travis Bickle. Having performed many of his own stunts, Gosling also brings in sensitivity and great emotional depth to his character, which complements the overall atmosphere of the heist-gone-bad film, brimming with thrills and soar of adrenaline.
“You get out of here and you never fucking come back. You never come back.”
3. A Bronx Tale (Robert DeNiro, 1993)
Lorenzo, an honest, law-abiding citizen, is extremely displeased when his son Calogero is taken under the wing of the local mobster named Sonny. Sonny teaches Calogero the ways of the gangster world and the latter becomes a trusted confidante and associate. However, when Calogero falls head over heels in love with Jane who is his African-American classmate, their affair is a taboo that threatens to disrupt the peace negotiations in the neighbourhood. This threatens to jeopardise Calogero’s life as well as the lives of the people around him who matter to him.
In his directorial debut, DeNiro presents a perfectly turbulent picture of the gangster life amidst the tumultuous socio-political climate of the 1960s, where the racial tension between the Italian-American and African-American communities run high. The magnificent ensemble makes this coming-of-age gangster film one of its kind while playing on the conventional tropes. DeNiro apparently spoke to Martin Scorsese, who affirmed the portrayal of life in such a community. He said, “My father was not involved with the Mafia, but, living in the neighbourhood, he had to figure out how to coexist with them.”
“The only thing that matters is what’s good for you and how you feel about each other.”
2. There Will be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Anderson explores the fundamental problems of vaulting ambition and one’s extreme desire for success. Daniel Day-lewis is a cold-hearted mercenary who dabbles in oil. His relentless pursuit of success drives him to move forward, and he refuses to stop at anything short of what he desires; that is his quest to becoming a well-known and revered oil mogul. He refuses to give up and goes to the brutal lengths of manipulating his adopted son to do his bidding. Incredible performances and a gripping storyline is the heart of this film.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a phenomenal filmmaker, much like Scorsese and a recurring theme in many of his films is the deeper and psychological and moral exploration of the pursuit of the American Dream, much like Scorsese. “When I was growing up, I don’t remember being told that America was created so that everyone could get rich”, Scorsese had said. “I remember being told it was about opportunity and the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness itself, but the pursuit.” There Will Be Blood sees the constant pursuit of the American Dream, and the atmospheric tension of ruthlessness and remorselessness is plummeted by Johnny Greenwood’s harrowing musical composition.
“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”
1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
Francis Ford Coppola outdid Mario Puzo when he adapted the latter’s best-selling eponymous novel to create his masterpiece. With both of them putting their heads together for the script, the film revolves around the Sicilian Mafioso paterfamilias who engages in intense conflicts with one another to assert their dominance in the world, which causes existing family structures to fall apart. Amidst rising violence and brutal bloodshed, the films celebrate tropes like friendship, betrayal, loyalty, bloodlust, vengeance and the concept of family.
A film that reigns supreme in the hearts of cinephiles and mafia film aficionados, The Godfather, had been listed by Scorsese as one of the 131 essential films one must watch. While Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, a commentary on the mobster life, is humorous and plenty of fun, The Godfather can be compared to his masterpiece and seen as the only film that can match his level of brilliance. With a historically sound backdrop and nuanced script, the film boasts of an incredible ensemble, namely Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and more, some of whom have appeared in Martin Scorsese’s films as well.
“Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.”